At Elves’ Quarters, North, things were quiet. Almost everyone was at work. 

            Elmer, however, was still in bed.  He was feeling awfully bad. “I don’t know what’s wrong,” he said, smiling weakly.

            Concerned, Jimbo sat on the foot of Elmer’s bed. “Maybe you should stay home.”

            “I’ll be okay.” Elmer tried to sit up, but fell back heavily on the bed. “I’m so tired."

            “Well, just rest today. Can I get you anything before I go?” Jimbo asked, putting on his overcoat and mittens.

            “Someone will fill in for me?”

            “Yes, we will find someone,” Jimbo said. “Take care of yourself, and don’t worry. We’ll handle things.”

            Elmer managed a smile. “Thanks.” 

            “Boog!” Jimbo called to the sleeping elf.

            Boog rolled over. “This better be good.”

            “Elmer’s not feeling well this morning. Keep an eye on him until you have to leave, will you?”

            “Sure.” Boog sat up and rubbed his eyes. “What’s wrong, Elmer?”

            “I dunno.  I’m so tired, and can’t seem to get going this morning.”

            “Did you eat anything to upset your tummy? They have some weird food out at the Cabin.” Boog grimaced.

            “I dunno . . . maybe.” Elmer groaned. "Oh no, it’s collywobbles!"

            "Uh-oh!" Jimbo and Boog chorused, and they rushed to help Elmer to the little elf's room.

            While they waited, Jimbo looked at Boog. "Stay with him, will ya? I need to get to work."

            “Sure, I’ll stick around. I don’t have to go in today.”

            Jimbo bade Elmer goodbye, and left.

            Boog turned his attention to Elmer. “Can I get you anything?”

            “Just help me back to bed. I think I’ll just rest awhile,” Elmer said, closing his eyes.

            “Well, if you need anything, just holler.” Boog tucked Elmer in and lay back down on his own bed. He pulled his covers over his head.

            Elmer drifted into a somewhat restless sleep, while Boog slept soundly in his own bed. After some time, Boog awakened to find Elmer tossing and turning.

            “Elmer,” Boog whispered, shaking his friend lightly. “Hey, Elmer.”

            Elmer rolled his head to the side and looked at Boog.  “I’m feeling real sick,” he moaned.  “I think I better go to sick call.”

            "The Dispensary's on the other side of town. How ‘bout I get Doc to come out here?”

            They were interrupted by a rap on the door. Boog opened it and greeted North Pole Phil, the polar bear postman, who was delivering the mail. “Phil! I’m glad to see you. Elmer’s mighty sick. Will you take Doc a message?”

            “Doc’s out at the Cabin. Seems Farley and Phred are down with something pretty serious.”

            Elmer groaned. "I gotta go again."

            Boog scowled. "He's got the collywobbles!"

            North Pole Phil scooped him up and carried him toward the little elf's room. “Gee, Elmer, what’s wrong?”

            “I’m sick, I need Doc.”         

            “Yep, I noticed. I can take a message out to the Cabin,” Phil offered, putting Elmer back in bed. “I’m about finished anyway.”

            “Thanks, Phil,” Boog said.

            “I’ll leave right now.” North Pole Phil waved to the elves and left.

            After what seemed like a long time, there was another knock on the door.  Boog opened the door for Doc.

            Doc eyed Boog’s pajamas. “Sleepin’ in?”

            “Sorta, but Elmer’s sick.” Boog plunked his ball cap on his head.

            Doc glanced at Elmer. “Hmm, what have we here?” He twirled his handlebar moustache.

            “He's got the collywobbles, Doc,” Boog said.  "He woke up feeling bad. He’s been sleeping off and on all day, but he doesn’t seem to be getting’ any better.”

            “Let me see your tummy,” Doc said.

            Elmer pushed down the covers and pulled up his night shirt. His tummy and chest were covered with green and purple spots.

            “Uh huh,” Doc said slowly. “Open your mouth wide and say ‘Ah.’”

            Elmer stuck out his tongue. “Ahhhh!”

            “Uh huh,” Doc said. He reached into his bag and selected his otoscope. He peered into Elmer’s eyes and ears. “Uh huh,” he said. “Have you been to the Christmas Tree Forest?”

            Elmer was surprised. “Yeah, I have. I spent a couple of days out there.”

            “Uh huh.” Doc nodded his head.

            “Uh huh, what?” Elmer asked nervously.

            “Uh huh, you have elfalantitis,” Doc said, closing his bag.

            Boog frowned. “Elfalantitis! What’s that? It sounds bad.”

           “It’s a rare inflammatory disease, contracted only by elves. Symptoms include purple and green splotches, exhaustion, lack of appetite, a mild cough, and of course, collywobbles. It’s highly contagious, and the only known cure is plenty of rest in a warm, sunny climate.  Elmer, you will need to leave right away. Phred and Farley will be going with you. Apparently, elfalantitis is going around, and we need to make sure that it doesn’t spread any further. I recommend a trip to Maui, Miami, or Mexico. Now, has anyone else been in contact with you?”

            Elmer’s head was spinning. “This is happening so fast,” he murmured.

            “Yes,” Doc agreed. “Now Elmer, think, has anyone else been around you?”

            “Yes, Jimbo helped me this morning, and North Pole Phil was here.” Elmer exhaled heavily.

            “Okay, let’s see -- Clancy, Smitty, Jimbo, and you, Boog, will be quarantined at the Dispensary.”

            “Quarantined! What about Phil?” Boog asked.

            “North Pole Phil can’t catch it. He’s a bear,” Doc replied. “Farley, Phred, and Elmer will have to travel south for awhile,” he added. “Where do you want to go, Elmer?  The others don't care.”

            “I don’t know anything about the south,” Elmer whimpered. “I just want to go where the others go. I don’t want to be by myself. What if someone else catches it?"

            “Well, as I said, elfalantitis only affects elves.  Once you are out of town, and the others are quarantined, everything should be okay. Of course, if Boog, Clancy, Smitty, or Jimbo comes down with it -- well, let’s not borrow trouble,” Doc said. “Boog, pack a bag for Elmer, and one for yourself. You will need to leave before the other elves get home. Take Elmer to the Frosty Corners Express Station." Then, turning back to Elmer, he said, “You and the others will take the train to North Pole, Alaska. By the way, you'll be going to Miami.”

            Elmer just nodded his head.

            Boog was confused. “North Pole, Alaska?” 

            “Yes, you heard right. North Pole, Alaska is one of our links to the rest of the world. The helpers can get a plane there,” Doc replied.  “Oh, I almost forgot. It will be extremely warm there, Elmer, but don’t shave your beard.  If you do, you will surely regret it when you return.  Just wear it in a ponytail or something.”

            “Ponytail?” Elmer sighed. “You’re joking, right?”

            “Not at all. Oh, Boog, you need to leave soon.  Don't accept assistance from anyone else. Then report to the Dispensary. I’m going back there now to get ready for your arrival.  On my way, I’ll stop by the train station to make arrangements.” Doc picked up his bag and added, “I’ll send Violet over here to dust away the infection.” He headed for the door.

            Boog nodded and sat down on Elmer’s bed. “Gosh, I gotta stay at the Dispensary.”

            “Gee, I’m awfully sorry,” Elmer said.

            “It’s not your fault. It’s just one of those things.”

            “Well, at least you will have some company,” Elmer said weakly.

            “Yeah, I feel pretty sorry for you, though. I mean, you have to leave the North Pole and everything. I dunno if I could. It’s scary,” Boog said.

            “Thank goodness I won’t be alone.” Elmer rested his head on his pillow.

            “Well, I need to get you to Frosty Corners.” Boog smiled at his friend. He located Elmer’s woollies. “Here, let me help you.” He held the coat while Elmer struggled to put it on.

            “Someone’s at the door,” Elmer gasped breathlessly, exhausted from putting on his duds.

            Boog opened the door and greeted Clancy. “I just passed Doc, and he told me Elmer is sick too,” Clancy said. “I have Farley and Phred in here.” He pointed to his pocket.

            “What!”

            “Yep, I dusted them. It’s the only way I could bring both of them at the same time. Besides, it’s warm in there,” Clancy said.

            “Are they okay in there?” Boog asked.

            Clancy shrugged. "It works for Santa." He peered in his pocket. "They're fine -- well, as fine as they can be, with elfalantitis.

            “Elmer, can I dust you and put you in my pocket?” Boog asked.

            “What about my skates?” Elmer said. He had never been dusted before – not to be made small, anyway – but he didn’t have the strength or will to resist.

            “I don’t think you will need them.” Clancy tossed wuffle dust on Elmer. “POOF!” Elmer all but disappeared.

            “You okay?” Boog asked his friend.

            “I seem to be,” Elmer replied in a tiny voice.

            Boog carefully tucked Elmer in his pocket, and he and Clancy left for Frosty Corners.

***

            News travels fast at the North Pole, and when Boog and Clancy arrived at the train station, they were greeted by North Pole Phil, Santa and Mrs. Claus.

            “Where are the sick ones?” Mrs. Claus asked.

            Boog and Clancy removed the passengers from their pockets. 

            “Uh-oh,” Santa said. “Be careful when you blow the dust.”

            Boog looked at Clancy. He hadn’t thought of that. “What happens if we blow too hard?” Boog asked sheepishly.

            “They will blow away," Santa said. "Of course, under normal circumstances that wouldn’t be a problem. They would just walk back; but since they are very ill, blowing on them could cause further complications.”

            “Well, what if we just put them on the train like this?” Clancy asked hopefully.

            “That should work,” North Pole Phil said.

            “I’ll go and speak with Willie,” Mrs. Claus said. She left the group and approached the elf who was standing near the engine.

            “Willie,” she began. “Elmer, Phred, and Farley are here, and ready to catch the train, but they’ve been doused with wuffle dust. How can we make sure they have a safe journey? They should return to their original sizes sometime tomorrow.”

            “Hmmm," said Willie. "I think it will be best to put each of them on a seat, alone."

            “No one will sit on them?” Mrs. Claus asked.

            “No one else is traveling on the train. We don’t want to spread elfalantitis around.”

            “They’re very ill,” Mrs. Claus said.  

            "Yes, I heard all about the epidemic."

            "Well, let's not call it an epidemic yet," Mrs. Claus said, frowning.

            "Of course, ma'am."

            “Ted E. Bear will accompany them, and care for them.  He will be here soon. Is everything ready?” she asked.

            “Yes ma’am, and they will ride in the last car so that I don't catch it.”           

            “Very good,” said Mrs. Claus, and she returned to the group. “Things are all arranged.  We will not blow away the dust. They will ride in the last car, and each one will have a seat to himself. That way, when they return to their original sizes, no one will be hurt.”

            Boog explained what was going to happen to the three dusted elves. “Geezie,” moaned Phred in a tiny voice. “I’ve never been south before.”

            Santa detected the apprehension in Phred’s voice. “You don’t have anything to worry about, Phred. Miami is very nice -- warm and sunny.” 

            Ted dropped his bag and approached Phil. “What’s the plan?”

            “You'll go with them to Miami and care for them until they can take care of themselves; then, you'll all return here,” North Pole Phil stated.

            “Don’t worry about your place. Pole Kat will handle things while you’re gone,” Mrs. Claus said.

            “Ted, here’s some wuffle dust,” Santa offered. “I think you’ll have enough, but use it sparingly. When it’s gone, it’s gone.  Doc said that you cannot return until their green and purple rashes have completely faded, and he has no idea how long that will take.” He sighed heavily.  “When you get to Miami, look for ‘A Christmas Place.’ They will befriend you.”

            “Wooo—ooo,  Wooo,” Willie pulled the whistle cord. “All aboard,” he called.

            “Here are some sandwiches and cookies,” Mrs. Claus offered several parcels to Ted. “I see you brought some hot cocoa,” she added, eying Ted’s huge thermos.

            “Yes,” Ted smiled wanly. “I thought we might need it.”

            “Here are some pillows and blankets -- oh, and a few books,” Phil said.

            Ted nodded his appreciation and hugged his life-long friends.  He and the elves were about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, and he was the only one who was well enough to care.

            “All aboard,” Willie shouted.

            North Pole Phil threw the bags onto the train.

            “I guess this is it.” Ted grinned at the ‘bon voyage’ committee. He scooped up his charges and hopped onto the step of the last car. There he stood, holding Elmer, Phred, and Farley in one hand, and waving goodbye to all he had ever known.


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